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Sunday, May 2

NYC police defuse Times Square car bomb; Pakistani, Somali residents/citizens of Briton head to Somalia to fight American troops

New York - May 2, 2010 - 3:59 AM ET Reuters update
Authorities credit street vendor for spotting vehicle

By Steve Eder, Clare Baldwin, Jonathan Spicer and Deepa Seetharaman

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Police tipped off by a street vendor found and defused a car bomb inside a sport utility vehicle, thwarting an "act of terrorism" that forced the evacuation of New York's Times Square on Saturday and could have killed many people, authorities said early on Sunday.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference that "we have no idea who did this or why." He said the failed bomb -- made of propane, gasoline and fireworks -- appeared to have been made in an amateurish manner.

Times Square is a popular tourist destination in Manhattan's Midtown, and was packed with tourists and theater-goers on a busy and warm Saturday night.

"Luckily, no one is hurt, and now the full attention of city, state and federal law enforcement will be turned to bringing the guilty party to justice in this act of terrorism," New York Governor David Paterson said in a statement.

Bloomberg said a T-shirt vendor noticed "an unoccupied suspicious vehicle" and alerted a police officer on horseback, who saw that the dark-green Nissan Pathfinder had smoke coming from vents near the back seat and smelled of gun powder.

"The NYPD bomb squad has rendered safe an improvised car bomb," said New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
The bomb was discovered at around 6:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) in the vehicle parked on 45th street and Broadway with its engine running and hazard lights flashing, officials said. It had Connecticut license plates that did not match the vehicle.

Kelly said the bomb squad had removed and dismantled three propane tanks, consumer grade fireworks, two filled five gallon (19 liter) gasoline containers, two clocks, batteries in each of the clocks, electrical wire and other components.

A locked metal box resembling a gun locker had also been removed and taken to a safe location to be detonated, he said.

"This wasn't make believe. This wasn't a false alarm. This was the real deal -- to hurt people," said Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, adding that the force of the bomb had it gone off could have taken down the front of a building.

Bloomberg said police patrols of the rest of New York City had not found anything suspicious. [...]
United Kingdom

  • According to the 2001 UK Census, 747,285 Pakistanis were residing in the UK and by most recent estimates the figure has increased to well over 1,000,000. This represents 1.5% of the UK's total population and makes it the world's second largest overseas Pakistani community... This figure does not include illegal immigrants, recent immigrants, and people who do not claim full Pakistani ancestry. [Wikipedia]

  • The Somali community in Britain numbers about 250,000, the largest in Europe, with the bulk of those coming to the country as refugees within the past 20 years.

  • May 2, 2010
    Mark Townsend, home affairs editor, (U.K.) Guardian:

    Fears grow that al-Qaida is constructing a safe haven in east Africa with UK groups' help

    A growing number of Britons are answering the call to jihad in Somalia and joining the ranks of militants linked to al-Qaida ahead of an American-backed drive next month to strengthen the country's army.

    Sources say that the influx, which includes Britons of Pakistani origin, is heading to the Horn of Africa as the US tries to shore up Somalia's government in the face of a broadening Islamist insurgency.

    Warnings have been sounded about British-based groups offering funding and expertise to individuals seeking to travel to Somalia to fight alongside al-Shabab, the militia aligned with al-Qaida's global campaign.

    US State Department sources said yesterday that it had noted an influx of "foreign fighters" arriving in Somalia to swell the ranks of al-Shabab. Popular routes from Britain to Somalia involve Kenya or Djibouti, the small republic that borders Somalia on its north west. One western official said some flights to the republic had, at one stage, been dubbed the "Djibouti express" because on occasion so many young Britons were on board. The precise scale of the exodus is unclear, but "scores" of British fighters are known to have travelled to Somalia.

    Concern is growing over the drip-feed of British men attending Somali training camps. Officials are keen to limit the country's potential to evolve into an alternative hideout for al-Qaida extremists from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Somalia's ungoverned spaces raise the risk, say analysts, of the country replicating Afghanistan's role as an al-Qaida safe haven when under Taliban control.

    There is fresh concern over Somalia's proximity to Yemen, the Arabian peninsula base for al-Qaida. Last week the British ambassador to Yemen survived a suicide bomb attack as his convoy travelled through the capital, Sanaa. A Pentagon source said recent events meant the US was developing "significant concerns about the growing threat" in the area.

    America has brought US special forces into Yemen to work with the army to try to counter the al-Qaida threat. It has also spent $6.8m in Somalia supporting training for nearly 2,000 soldiers, touted as the biggest effort to rebuild the Somalian army in 20 years.

    The issue of Somalia has been repeatedly raised by Jonathan Evans, director- general of MI5. "There is no doubt that there is training activity and terrorist planning in east Africa – particularly in Somalia – which is focused on the UK," he has said.

    British security sources cite the case last month of an Australian man of Somali origin who was suspected of working with al-Shabab, but who escaped from police custody in Kenya, as an example of the new wave of foreign fighters entering the country.

    The movement between Somalia and the UK has led to increased efforts to detect potential terror networks linked to Islamic militants based in east Africa. The Somali community in Britain numbers about 250,000, the largest in Europe, with the bulk of those coming to the country as refugees within the past 20 years.

    Two Somali asylum-seekers were among the four men convicted of the failed attempts to bomb the London transport system on 21 July 2005.

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